Top Tips for Lowering Winter Heating Bills

We’re just one day away from the official start of winter and all it takes is one look at the weather forecast for the week to see it in plain sight. Some people are excited for the cold weather to roll on in and some people are dreading it, no doubt. Regardless of which camp you’re in, you probably want to be toasty and comfortable when you’re relaxing at home and that’s where residential heating comes in handy.

But with all things as useful and convenient as residential heating, there’s a downside. And with heating, that downside is of course the energy bill. As time marches us on into the winter, the weather will get colder, your heater will stay on longer, and your energy bills will go up. It’s as inevitable as gravity. But it doesn’t have to be a major loss. There are things you can do to reduce your heating bills and those things vary greatly, both in an initial investment of time, money, and energy, and payoff. In this tip of the day we’re going to look at some of the best and most often touted tips for saving money on heating in Austin in the fall and winter.

Tip #1: Upgrade Your Windows

Believe it or not, your windows are a significant source of heat loss in your home. It only makes sense, as they are gaps in the home that interrupt the sturdy insulation that lines it. But with a few adjustments, anything from small upgrades to complete replacements, you can improve your windows and their insulating factor so that they don’t let in as much cold and don’t let out as much heat.

One of the cheapest ways to improve your windows is by purchasing and applying window film. You'll find the film in home improvement stores, and it's what it sounds like, a translucent film that goes over the window. It reflects the sun's heat during the summer, keeping the house cooler; in the winter, it can reduce heat loss through old windows by up to 40 percent, according to the International Window Film Association.

The investment versus payoff factor when it comes to window film varies depending on a couple of different factors. If you have them professionally applied it will probably run you around $30 to $60 per window. If you do it yourself it could cost you more or less depending on the brand you purchase. They don’t run cheap but it’s cheaper than replacing your windows with higher grade ones and it can be done today with very little effort involved. Depending on the size of your home and the number of windows you could see a complete return on your investment in two to five years as estimated by one expert. That means that for those who plan on staying in their current house for a while this is an easy little adjustment to make that can pay off in the long run.

That little caveat is true for a lot of these tips actually. The bigger the initial investment, the longer you’ll have to wait for it to pay itself off, but the usually the bigger the potential savings will be. And the longer you plan on staying in your current house the more upgrades will be worth the investment.

Tips #2: Use Your Current Equipment Wisely

Window upgrades may be all well and good but maybe you’re looking for things you can do starting today that won’t cost you a single cent to implement and yet can make a difference in your monthly heating bill. Well luckily there are a few tips in this regard. It’s all about using what you already have in the most efficient way possible and making sure you’re not making any easy to fix rookie mistakes when it comes to efficient heater usage.

Ceiling fans present an opportunity here overlooked by many. Typically, people think of ceiling fans as a way to cool down, but they can also be utilized for heat. That’s because ceiling fans don’t actually produce any cool air, they just move the air around and when this is focused on your skin the air will feel cooler. But if you set your ceiling fan to a low speed, and set it to spin clockwise, the warm air trapped at the ceiling will mix with the cooler air and heat the entire room. Do this, and you might see a 15 percent savings on your heating bill for the entire house.

Curtains and drapes can be used in a right and wrong way as well. When there’s no sunlight coming in through a window, the blinds and curtains, and drapes if applicable, should be closed. This will act as a minor level of insulation that ensures that the amount of heat in the house leaking out is minimized. When there is sunlight hitting the window though, you should through those curtains open and let it in, as this sunlight will act as free heat, warming the house without you having to do a thing. So at night and over windows that don’t get direct sunlight, keep drapes and curtains closed. During the day, especially on sunny days, keep them open.

Also, make sure you’re not accidentally lowing the efficiency of the heater’s work by blocking or closing any of the air vents. These registers should all be open and unobstructed to ensure that the air in your home is circulating properly and there is an even distribution of warm air.

Tip #3: Increase Humidity

As much as excess humidity is a problem in the summer, especially in our climate here in Austin, the opposite is often true during the winter. With cold air comes less moisture in it. This can lead to a number of problems including chapped lips and lowered immune systems but one of the most notable effects of a dry environment is that cool air feels colder. The more you humidity you’ve got in your home the more comfortable you’ll be able to feel in lower temperatures. By increasing your home’s humidity to a comfortable level, you can make 68F feel as comfortable as 75F. You’ll also be decreasing your susceptibility to winter colds and sinus infections: dry air makes your mucus membranes more vulnerable. Of course, too much humidity is a problem too and there is a balance to be struck, but there are a surprising number of ways you can boost the humidity in your home a little even without investing in a humidifier.

Easy non-technological ways to increase humidity include adding (well-watered) houseplants, using indoor drying racks for laundry (adding to your savings by reducing dryer use), and placing shallow containers of water on heating elements such as radiators and wood stoves. Even leaving a water-filled baking dish in an unobtrusive spot such as on top of the refrigerator will help. You might be surprised how quickly evaporation empties the vessel. Run kitchen and bath fans only as needed to prevent window condensation: if the moisture buildup is not visible on glass surfaces, it’s being absorbed into the air to enhance your home humidity. If you start seeing visible window condensation (not immediately explicable by a recent shower or dishwashing), you’ve raised the humidity too high and should reduce your efforts. The target zone is between 30-50% humidity: you can test it yourself with a home hygrometer if you’re not sure.

Tip #4: Keep Your Heater Maintained

This is probably the most important tip when it comes to saving money on heating because it can end up saving you from potentially dire breakdowns and will make a big difference in your heating bills. Modern heaters are sophisticated machines that are designed to last a long time but they can’t do so without a little help every once and a while. Maintenance is an inevitable part of owning a heater and without regular maintenance your chances of eventually needing costly repairs or finding yourself in need of a new heater long before you’d expect go way up.

Some maintenance can be done yourself and some will require a professional’s help. Check your furnace filters monthly, and clean or replace them when they look dirty. Clogged filters greatly reduce furnace efficiency. You should be able to clearly see light through the filter. After the first few years, a new furnace needs an annual cleaning and tune-up to maintain peak efficiency.

Soot buildup, dusty or poorly lubricated fans, flickering pilot lights, and loose fan belts can add hundreds to your heating costs each year. Getting your furnace or heat pump tuned up regularly by an Austin heating service professional can do wonders for both your wallet and your overall comfort. Natural gas–powered systems should be serviced every two to three years, while oil-fired units need a tune-up every year since they burn dirtier. Also be sure to seal and insulate your air ducts, particularly any which travel through unheated space such as basement, attic, or crawlspace. You can buy mastic sealant or metal tape at any home improvement store and do it yourself if you’re interested. Doing so will reduce your home's air leakage and could save you a bundle in heating and cooling bills.

Saving Money on Heating Repair in Austin

Everyone wants to save money and with the right know-how everyone can. Hopefully, you found something helpful that you maybe didn’t know in some of the tips above. The goal is to arm you with the knowledge of how to shave those dollars off your monthly heating bill so you can be both comfortable and frugal this winter. It can be as simple as closing the drapes at night or as long-term as upgrading your windows. Every little bit helps.

And of course one shouldn’t forget the most important step in saving heating costs which is regular maintenance of your heater. AC Express is an Austin heater repair company that has been serving Austin and the surrounding areas, from Cedar Park and George Town to Leander and Liberty Hill, for many years. We do everything from routine maintenance to complete replacement. If you’re looking for quality heater repair in Austin look no further.